No solution yet on OROP, talks stuck over pension revision

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New Delhi, Sep 3: The stalemate over implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme continued on Thursday over the review period for pensions, as the protest by ex-servicemen entered its 81st day.

A source from the ex-servicemen's group told IANS that while the veterans had stepped down and said they were ready to accept revision every two years, the government maintained its stand on reviewing pensions only after five years, causing the stalemate.

No solution yet on OROP, talks stuck over pension revision.
On Thursday, representatives of the veterans had a meeting with the army chief, General Dalbir Singh.

Col. Anil Kaul (retd), spokesperson for the ex-servicemen front, however, told IANS "nothing" came out of the meeting.

"The government is saying revision of pensions will be every five years. That is not acceptable to us," the source said.

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"We agreed for revision every two years instead of one year, though even that will dilute the definition of OROP. We thought we must not be totally rigid."

Representatives from the veterans' group said revision every two years will mean at least 11 percent seniors will get lesser pension than juniors.

However, with the government sticking to the five-year time, no agreement could be reached.

This stalemate comes after talks progressed well in the past couple of days.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, several representatives from the government met the veterans, and hopes were high of a breakthrough. However, things turned once again on Thursday.

At a press conference on Thursday morning, the veterans said there was no clarity from the government's side over the issue.

"How do we negotiate when the government does not say what it is willing to offer?" asked Col. Kaul at the Jantar Mantar protest site where retired soldiers are observing a hunger strike for implementing OROP.

Group Captain V.K. Gandhi (retd) said: "There is no one statement from the government... One person says one thing today, another person another thing. They keep shifting the goalpost."

The veterans rued that despite the government sending several mediators, no concrete proposal from the government has come so far.

Stating that they were still open to talks and ready to consider the government's point of view, the ex-servicemen said there was no clarity on the government's offer to them.

"The government makes their offers, we present our demands. But nothing is clear. One mediator makes one offer, another one makes another... The way we have conveyed our demands clearly, the government should also make its offers ready," Col. Kaul told IANS.

"Six or seven different mediators are talking to us, they are sending different people to get concessions, but there is nothing concrete," Group Captain Gandhi added.

About the probability of the government announcing the OROP unilaterally, the veterans said if they found it was not as per their demands, their agitation would continue.

"We want One Rank One Pension, not one rank two pension or one rank three pension...," Group Captain Gandhi said, adding that the yearly revision veterans were asking for was important so that it remains 'one rank one pension'.

About the condition of veterans staging an indefinite hunger strike for so many days, the ex-servicemen wished to know if the government would take the responsibility if anything happened to them.

Col. Pushpender Singh (retd), who started an indefinite fast on August 17, and had to be evacuated and taken to hospital later, returned to Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.

Along with him is Havaldar Major Singh, on fast since August 17 as well, who has refused to leave the protest site despite his deteriorating health condition.

There are 13 ex-servicemen sitting on an indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar.

Thursday was the 81st day of the protest by the ex-servicemen in the national capital. Thirteen retired soldiers are on indefinite hunger strike. Relay hunger strikes are being held in some 60 towns and cities.

IANS

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